Saturday, November 26, 2016

Progress report on the 1980 Mercian Olympic restoration

Ebay seller's picture. I wasn't sure if those two yellow bands on the seat tube were factory or not. Seems like they were, if so, that's an unusual feature.

It's been several months since I made a (somewhat) impulsive purchase of an older Mercian Olympic frame on eBay. I have been taking my time deciding how I wanted to set up this bike. I finally decided to go with a "modernized vintage" effect. I wanted this bike to fit more modern (130-135mm OLD) wheels. I also wanted to eliminate most of the "clamped-on" fittings, adding brazed on rear brake cable guides, shifter bosses and water bottle bosses. Might as well throw in a pump peg too!
The frame after Steve Rex's work, including brake cable guides, shifter bosses, pump peg and water bottle bosses.
As it happens, one of North America's biggest suppliers of frame builder's fittings and supplies is located just a couple of miles from my house! I visited Nova Cycle Supplies and arranged to pick up all the necessary bits for my Mercian. It's surprising how inexpensive these little bits are, of course, the real cost comes in brazing them onto the frame.

I then took the frame and parts down to Steve Rex's shop in Downtown Sacramento. He got all the bits attached in short order. I tried to do the spreading of the rear triangle myself. While attempting this, a small catastrophe occurred,  and I managed to separate the rear brake bridge from the seat stay, Yikes!

Back to Steve Rex for the repair. I must say the Steve did a really good job with the repair, although the left chainstay suffered a bit of a crimp from my mishandling, but it remained structurally sound. Everything looks good now. Lesson learned; although I had spread rear triangles in the past, this time the distance, (120 to 135mm), and the type of steel, (531 stays), demanded support at the brake bridge which I had neglected to do.

Fresh from Steve Rex's shop, showing the new shift bosses and pump peg.
After returning from the second trip to Rex's, I assembled the bike again to make sure everything was right. The bike rides very well; It's got the Mercian feel for me, stable, comfortable yet responsive.

Earlier test ride, before Steve Rex's work on the frame. Wow, those brake cables are long!
It was now time for paint. Since this bike is to be a workhorse rather than a showhorse, I had decided to have it powdercoated. Powdercoat is tough and compared to wet paint relatively cheap. Also, there are a lot of powdercoat shops in the Sacramento region, and very few bike painters. The disadvantage of powdercoat is that it can look heavy and cover up a steel frame's detail if not applied carefully. A friend of mine had a frame done by one shop that didn't look great, not bad, but not great, and they seemed to be a little shifty on pricing.

Another view of the head tube, after powder coat and lug lining.
I found one shop that actually mentioned bicycle frames on its webpage, Powder-Coat-It, on Roseville Road in North Sacramento. I brought the frame down and the girl there seemed to know what she was doing! Looking at their huge array of colors, I decided on a monochrome burgundy shade (RAL 3004, Claret Red, which was a close match to the original shade). I had applied some tape on the threaded surfaces I wanted left clean and had inserted bolts on the various bosses. She noted those, (they do their own masking and use nylon plugs to protect threads), and gave me the price of $165.

About a week later, the frame was done and I picked it up. I'm pretty happy with the results. Overall, the quality of the finish is very good, not too heavy at all, although there are one or two spots that seemed a little thicker than other areas.

A detail of the powder coat, you can still make out the "Campagnolo" on the dropout!

This shot shows off the lug lining I did with a "DecoColor" Pen.

I then applied "lug lining" by using a DecoColor gold fine-tipped pen. I practiced on my Nishiki before tackling the Mercian. The results look pretty good.

I've ordered a set of Mercian decals from Cyclomondo in Australia, along with the Reynolds 531 sticker.  The Mercian stickers match the original gold script the bike came with. I hope it mates well with the lug lining.
Stickers on order!
Awaiting new decals.

Stay tuned for updates!


  1. I've got an '86 Olympic I converted to 650Bx32 Pari Motos. Wonderful ride. Try some Compass tires on yours.

    1. Very nice, and I like that color scheme. I have been contemplating a 650B conversion for this. Looks like the frame handles them well.

      I do have a 650B wheelset, leftover from my Surly Pacer conversion, that will fit my Olympic. I'll have to work on the Tektro 559's to fit, (they're set up for allen fittings right now, and I don't want to drill anything on this frame to make them fit.